On the surface, this is an uproarious account of how Margaret Thatcher went from being a politician to a ‘cabaret superstar’ holding court in G.A.Y. Except of course, in real life she didn’t – and beneath the sequins, feather boas and dance routines, the plot centres on Thatcher’s role in the infamous Section 28, a controversial law designed to prevent children being taught about homosexuality in school.
Flanked by two moustached men dressed in cut-off denim shorts – who are introduced as Hesel and Tine – Maggie makes quite the entrance, and it’s not long before she’s singing I’m your Venus to an avid audience. From here it only gets camper.
Meanwhile the scene is set for 1988, and there’s widespread discontent. Enter the dastardly figure of Jill Knight (who in the real world, is the Conservative MP who introduced Section 28), complete with sparkly pink cardigan and an anti-gay agenda. Will Maggie bow to pressure or make a stand? To help her decide, hilarious assistance is given along the way by Ian McKellen, Winston Churchill and a Johnny Rotten-esque Peter Tatchell. All of this is squeezed into one energetic hour.
By rewriting history and turning Thatcher into a flamboyant drag act, she cuts enough of a sympathetic figure to create a thoroughly entertaining character, whilst highlighting the contrast with real life events. Unsurprisingly there’s some great writing, with Thatcher saying with a twinkle that being gay is ‘just a phase… like empathy’. All of this is delivered with panache by Matt Tedford, who plays the lead role and captures Maggie’s mannerisms alarmingly well.
The performance is pretty intense and it took a few minutes for me to get into the swing of the show, but as the momentum built I became totally immersed in this glitzy parallel world. Some parts were funnier than others – Winston Churchill really does steal the show – but the performance as a whole succeeds in being both political and fun.
I haven’t been to many Fringe shows which end with a standing ovation, but this one of them. Casting Thatcher as a gay icon certainly proves a great way for a community alienated by her policies to enact their long-term, flamboyant revenge. It’s irreverent rather than unpleasant, and ultimately makes you feel great at the end of it. This camp extravaganza is not to be missed.